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Forget peanuts, let's ban dogs


The following is a satire column.

As flouted in a recent email from Student Affairs and this article, Duke has successfully eliminated peanuts and tree nuts from campus eateries—shh, don’t tell that to the Red Mango PB Power Bowl I had for breakfast last week. While not every student agrees that this is a good choice, as stated in the article, “Duke Dining is now the first college/university dining program in the country to receive FARECheck Gold Status for an entire facility.” As they say, all press is good press—and I would know—so Duke admin should ride this incredible wave of positive momentum by making more newsworthy campus policy decisions.

This is Duke: we care about impact; we love the numbers. Anything we can be the best at or do first is a win in the eyes of those in charge. Supposedly, peanuts and tree nuts are the most common food allergen on campus—because we’re special and not like the general population, for whom it is dairy by a wide margin—so we eliminated them. According to NCBI, the prevalence of nut allergies hovers just above 1%. That’s 71.973 Duke undergraduates if you do the math. Now, personally, I don’t know any of these 71 and change students; however, I am sure they are ecstatic about this decision, as are the admins and dining workers who helped make this happen.

Back to impact with a capital “I.” According to Northeast Allergy, some of the most common allergens are pollen, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, and animal dander; some are easier to control than others. Across the world, around 10 and 20 percent of the population is allergic to cats and dogs. That’s 654-1,309 or so odd Duke undergraduates, including yours truly (please, oh god, whatever you do, don’t mail me a fluffy white Persian kitten as a prank for suggesting what I am about to suggest—have mercy).

While it’s difficult to go one day without seeing a dog around campus, I first must address the most pernicious purveyor of puppies: Duke’s very own Puppy Kindergarten. They have raised dozens of puppies. Just think of all that pet fur and dander, clogging the centralized air vents of your dorm, littering the ground, sneaking its way onto your clothing. It’s our duty as a community to do something about it. Not only do we allow pets, but we promote them—just look at the Duke University Instagram. And it’s obviously unreasonable to ask people who are allergic to just avoid dogs and other animals.

Sure, I guess there are probably some benefits of Puppy Kindergarten, like science and research advancement and the happiness of volunteers or whatever. Still, we can’t let ourselves be swayed by such propaganda—after all, a lot of people had to give up the beloved Nutella crepe from Café for the sake of the broader good. You can’t tell me this program is anything more than an excuse for people to play with cute puppies. I see through your façade, Duke Department of Evolutionary Anthropology!

Sure, some people need service animals for physical disabilities or “mental health reasons,” but the presence of dogs—and, to a lesser extent, cats—is an inconvenience to myself and the literal hundreds of people who are allergic to them. It’s sort of like how students with dairy allergies often use nut-based alternatives such as almond milk instead of cow, and vegetarians and vegans often supplement various nuts as protein sources since they can’t have animal products. They are sacrificing their preferences for the greater good, and dog people should, too.

I’ll say it: I’m not a dog person. They make me sneeze and have watery eyes. My life would be mildly better if Duke banned dogs and other pets on campus. And we should ban anything that any significant group of people finds mildly inconvenient, especially if it allows Duke to look extra innovative or impressive. To enact the pet ban at scale, I suggest delegating the task to the Academic Guides to perform in any manner they see fit, which would give them something to do besides sometimes ordering donuts. It’s all for the collective well-being—or at least the appearance of such.

I am already anticipating the backlash towards this decision and have some additional suggestions to make this a more equitable change for everyone. Gold and Mamabean, like the peanut butter at Red Mango, will be exempt from the distinction of pets in the proposed forthcoming ban. However, we will make up for this by eliminating the remaining common allergies that are widespread on campus.

First, Duke will cut down all trees—including the cherry blossoms—to prevent the proliferation of pollen and subsequent hell for seasonal allergy sufferers. Next, we will slowly remove all allergens from the dining halls until the only foods left are plain chicken, white rice and unseasoned broccoli (J.B.’s will make a killing). Finally, the cleaning staff will thoroughly clean all dorms to remove any traces of mold and dander (who am I kidding, this will never happen). 

While the decision to ban dogs would likely not be without its problems, it is the clear next step in creating a more allergy-friendly campus. This reasonable plan will allow the administration to uniquely stand out from its peers by taking a decisive step towards an entirely allergy-free campus, a category of our own creation in which we can simultaneously be game master and the winner by default.

Heidi Smith is a Trinity junior. Her column runs on alternate Mondays.


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